May 052011
 

It seems as if every time I attend a concert at the Florida Theatre, I end up in conversation with someone famous. A few weeks back I spoke to Jimmy Pons, the bass player with The Turtles and Mothers of Invention. Last night after the Jeff Beck concert and while waiting for the great man to emerge from the Stage Door, I got chatting to two British guys, both Londoners, one of whom turned out to be Trevor Tanner, the former front-man and guitarist with the 1980s band, The Bolshoi.

Trevor is now based in Jacksonville Beach and plays with celtic rock band Rathkeltair, as well as pursuing a solo career. The other guy, Rob, was his manager. I guess that should have tipped me off that I was dealing with someone talented.

We chatted for about 20 minutes about life in Jacksonville but more importantly football and Stoke City’s appearance in the FA Cup Final on May 14. Trevor turned out to be an Arsenal fan and the less said about that the better. Rob was a Spurs fan.

With no sign of Beck during that time and the security men saying that he had left by another exit – well they would say that, wouldn’t they – my wife and I headed home still talking about the amazing concert we had just witnessed.

There are guitarists and then there is Jeff Beck. His virtuoso performance at the Florida Theatre demonstrated just why fellow guitar legend Eric Clapton describes Beck as the most innovative guitarist in the world.

Before the concert, I got talk to the guitarist of a street band playing outside the Chew restaurant as part of Jacksonville’s monthly Art Walk. In this kind of situation, the Ricoh GRD III with its 28mm equivalent lens copes just fine. I was able to get in close. But in a concert setting and sitting a few rows back from the stage, its limitations are all too obvious, as the photograph further down the page shows.

Street band on W Adams Street, Jacksonville. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Naturally, we got talking about guitarists in general and Beck in particular. He agreed with my assertion that the mark of a truly great guitarist is when they can be recognized instantly from just a couple of notes; people like Roy Buchanan, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana and BB King to name just a few.

And no one can replicate the searing guitar tone of Jeff Beck which tore into the hearts and minds of a near sell-out crowd at the Florida Theatre.

Beck ably demonstrated that he is a true master of his craft. Some of his solos, the sheer dexterity, had me shaking my head in disbelief as well as adulation.

In the course of his set, Beck raised and lowered the tempo to perfection, allowing both the band and the audience to draw breath for the next sonic onslaught. He covered a wide spectrum of genres – rock, jazz fusion, blues, soul, and rockabilly – each one receiving Beck’s unique style and treatment.

Jeff Beck on stage at the Florida Theatre. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

With a career spanning more than 40 years, Beck has accumulated a vast repertoire. His latest album Emotion & Commotion featured prominently in the set list but Beck turned the clock back and reached into his musical past. I was lucky in that two of my all-time favourites – Big Block from Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop (1989) and Brush With The Blues from the 1999 Who Else! album – received an airing.

Last night, Beck’s band featured Rhonda Smith on bass, Jason Rebello on keyboards and the legendary Narada Michael Walden on drums. That is some line-up, particularly Smith who takes bass playing into another dimension pretty much in the same manner as Beck’s guitar playing.

Beck is normally the kind of musician who lets his music do the talking. The previous two times I saw him, in 1972 and 1990, he never addressed the audience. Last night, not only did he speak on a couple of occasions but also conducted the crowd’s response in Led Boots. He even shared a joke near the end of the set when he donned a pair of sunglasses looked down at the fretboard and then said, “Now I can see what I’m playing.”

Another feature of last night’s concert was the inclusion of several rock and pop covers – A Day In The Life and Something by the Beatles, Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix and I Want To Take You Higher by Sly and The Family Stone. Becks’ version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Nessun Dorma, which both feature on his latest album, completed the range of his musical versatility.

With four encores — including How High The Moon as a tribute to Les Paul when Beck switched from his trademark Fender Stratocaster to a Gibson Les Paul, well it had to be, didn’t it – Beck further endeared himself to the Jacksonville audience.

As he acknowledged the crowds cheers and applause, Beck touched his heart and then the bicep of his right arm. That sums up his music — power and emotion — the ingredients that have fueled his creativity and playing throughout five decades.